$50 billion here, $50 billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money

iStockphoto.com Once upon a time, the White House budget director estimated the Iraq war might cost $50 billion. Today, $50 billion is a mere asterisk. On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates went to the Hill and added nearly that amount to the $141 billion the president had already requested for fiscal year 2008. In ...

598988_070928_benjy_05.jpg
598988_070928_benjy_05.jpg

iStockphoto.com

Once upon a time, the White House budget director estimated the Iraq war might cost $50 billion. Today, $50 billion is a mere asterisk. On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates went to the Hill and added nearly that amount to the $141 billion the president had already requested for fiscal year 2008. In other words, Iraq and Afghanistan will conservatively cost $190 billion next year alone.

Earlier this year, FP contributor Gordon Adams, a former national security budget official at the Clinton White House, examined just how much the Pentagon's books have spiraled out of control due to war spending. Here's what he has to say about Gates's most recent funding request:

iStockphoto.com

Once upon a time, the White House budget director estimated the Iraq war might cost $50 billion. Today, $50 billion is a mere asterisk. On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates went to the Hill and added nearly that amount to the $141 billion the president had already requested for fiscal year 2008. In other words, Iraq and Afghanistan will conservatively cost $190 billion next year alone.

Earlier this year, FP contributor Gordon Adams, a former national security budget official at the Clinton White House, examined just how much the Pentagon’s books have spiraled out of control due to war spending. Here’s what he has to say about Gates’s most recent funding request:

The administration and the Congress are playing fiscal poker with Iraq: They’re still “betting on the come’ in funding the war. That’s a poker term for putting incremental money on the table in the hopes that the hand will improve as you draw more cards. The administration “antes up” funding requests one at a time, with no long-term cost projection or position on how or when the war will end. And the Congress keeps “calling” the administration, matching the ante, and kicking confrontation down the road.

U.S. taxpayers have already spent at least $610 billion on the global war on terror. That’s about $333 million a day. And with the new funding, the total will exceed $800 billion. So, what is this extra funding that Gates wants actually going for? The surge and safer hardware.

The big hardware piece is something called the MRAP—the Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected Vehicle. This large, lumbering armored vehicle will replace the HUMVEE in Iraq (once MRAPs start to get there this winter), and it is designed to protect against the land mines and IEDs that have cost so many lives and limbs. Gates says there will be $16 billion in the additional budget request for MRAPs, bringing the total DoD order to more than 15,000 of them. [Ed:Each vehicle costs about $1 million.]

No matter how long the surge force stays in place, any returning brigades will cost additional funds to bring back home. Without a major reduction in forces below pre-surge levels, funding requirements for the war will simply continue to mount.

We’re sliding fast to $1 trillion spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For perspective, the total GDP of the United States last year was just over $13 trillion.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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